B.C. bilingual signs point to new relationship

One of the new distance signs installed on Highway 20 which shows the names of each Tsilhqot’in community and distance in kilometres. Courtesy Ministry of Transportation

VICTORIA – Newly erected signs in British Columbia’s southern Interior are being hailed as literal guides to Cariboo communities and symbolic guides toward better relations with the Tsilhqot’in First Nation.

As part of the provincial government’s reconciliation with the Tsilhqot’in, distance signs will be installed on Highway 20 and several other major routes west of Williams Lake.

Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone says the signs — in both Tsilhqot’in and English — honour the history and culture of the region’s original people.

Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, adds that it’s the first time any Tsilhqot’in community has been mentioned on a highway sign, and says the symbolic significance can’t be ignored.

Signs will also be erected at the entrances to the Nemiah and Tatlayoko valleys, about 300 kilometres west of Williams Lake, advising travellers they are approaching declared Tsilhqot’in lands.

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In a historic decision last year, the Supreme Court of Canada granted rights and title to a vast swath of land to the Tsilhqot’in First Nation.

The bilingual signs are not the first in the province, highway signs in English, Squamish and Lil’wat were erected along the Sea-to-Sky Highway to Whistler during upgrades to that route prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics.

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